Author Archives: George Simmers

After many years as a teacher, I retired and began researching for a Ph.D. on the fiction of the Great War – especially the books, stories and plays that were written during the War or immediately afterwards.

The National Service Board – and A.E. Housman

In 1940 Percy Withers recalled occasions when, during the previous war, he had told A.E. Housman about his work at the National Service Board: He was greatly interested too in the technicalities of the work, the material it exploited, the revelations it brought to light, the ugliness, the momentary relief, the sordidness, the enduring pity. […]

Pagan, by W. F. Morris

Pagan (1931) is by W.F. Morris, the author of Bretherton: Khaki or Field Grey?, that slightly mad yet highly enjoyable novel about a British officer who, while suffering from amnesia, becomes a general in the German Army. Morris is one of those ex-soldier novelists for whom the war is always the main theme, and the […]

Compton Mackenzie, disillusionment and Douglas Jerrold

Mostly,  Gallipoli Memories (1929) is a rather jolly memoir by someone who presents himself as hanging around the Staff with not very much useful work to do. It’s only towards the end that Mackenzie makes it clear that this is partially intended as a contribution to the opposition to the ‘disillusioned’ literature that had taken […]

Casualties

There’s a striking short exchange in Compton Mackenzie’s Gallipoli Memories (1929): Some time after this General Paris visited Army Corps Headquarters, and to him General Hunter- Weston spoke enthusiastically of some successful action on a portion of the front. “Many casualties?” asked General Paris in a voice that could not hide the bitterness he felt […]

Arnold Bennett, the theatre and the cinema

Looking for something quite different altogether in the October 1920 copies of The Stage, I came across this item about Arnold Bennett. It prints his rather abrupt reply to a request to help the campaign trying  to preserve the Royal, Hanley, as a theatre, and prevent its conversion into a picture palace:

The Return of the Brute

Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute (1929) tells the story of what happens to a group of ineffective soldiers who are sent forward into no-man’s-land in 1917, as part of a large offensive. They get lost, they are victims of the mud, and of random enemy fire, and above all they endlessly chafe against one […]

Company K by William March

Company K (1934) is a strange novel. At the recent Aberdeen conference, Steven Trout made strong claims for it, and with reason. It is wide-ranging, hard-hitting and original. Its form is a succession of brief (sometimes under a page) fragments, each relating a war experience of a different member of an American company of Marines. […]

‘The Fictional First World War’ at Aberdeen

I’m now back from the Fictional First World War conference at Aberdeen, with my head full of ideas, and with a lengthy list of additions to my reading list. The conference was of a very high standard; here are some of the highlights.

Aberdeen

I’m looking forward to heading north to Aberdeen tomorrow. Mostly because of the Fictional First World War conference, but also because it is where my father’s family comes from. My grandfather (also George Simmers) was born there in 1868, at 191, Gallowgate. This picture, of another house in the street, probably gives an idea of […]

The Querrils, by Stacy Aumonier

With my paper for the Aberdeen conference in mind, I’ve been re-reading The Querrils (1919) by Stacy Aumonier. My paper will be on fictional representations of military executions over the hundred years since 1914, and Aumonier’s novel contains one of the earliest (and oddest). (Warning: spoilers ahead.)